As fears about the continued spread of Covid-19 and the Delta variant circulate throughout the country, the return to in-person learning this fall has become an even more hotly debated issue than before. Many school districts are struggling to revise their back-to-school plans and alleviate parental fears, while continuing to address criticism over the subpar virtual learning many students experienced last year.
Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s updated mask guidelines and recent Covid-19 outbreaks at some K-12 schools are leaving many wondering if it’s possible to keep students and their families safe in the wake of so many unknowns.
In Arkansas, for example, one school district has placed more than 160 students in quarantine after seven students and three staff members tested positive for coronavirus. Despite this, New York City—the nation’s largest school district—is still on track to offer 100 percent in-person schooling, with no remote option available.
Without reliable online learning methods in place, many families are searching for a viable option that works. This is achievable, but only if school districts and parents act now to make it a reality before the school year begins.
First, school districts must immediately work to offer a reliable online learning option that guarantees students can stay on track if they feel uncomfortable returning to in-person classes or if an unexpected need arises.
School leaders can stay ahead of any potential school closures or schedule modifications by using an edtech provider with experience doing online learning the right way. This decision would be more efficient than implementing impromptu virtual operations that lack tried-and-true online learning methodologies. The distinction is clear, and parents know it. The majority of parents even indicated that their child’s online learning experience would have been better if they had increased support from their school district (80 percent), better training for teachers (82 percent), and improved internet access (77 percent).
Second, if their local school districts fail or are unable to act, parents should look outside of their district for online learning options that meet their students’ needs. In our rapidly expanding digital world in which new technologies abound, high-quality online learning options are available for students of all grades and learning abilities. Many online education providers pair an interactive, standards-aligned curriculum with experienced online educators to offer both flexibility and the safety of at-home learning. The result is increased student engagement and success.
Research proves this point. In a recent study, thousands of students who attended established online schools or programs last year, significantly outperformed their peers who were suddenly forced to go virtual. These programs, teachers, and administrators have decades of valuable experience in online learning, allowing them to meet the unique needs of every child.
Unfortunately, the outlook for in-person school this fall, at best, is murky. Unless schools are proactive in preparing for another shutdown due to Covid-19 variants, the learning loss students will experience will continue to hamper their progress and force them further and further behind in their studies and achievement levels.
Our country is still far from returning to “normal,” but even once we do, online learning opportunities are likely to become the norm for millions of students and families. Why would we remove virtual options now and put families with health concerns at risk unnecessarily?
Instead, district leaders and government officials must recognize that the future of education is here. There has never been–and likely will never be–a better time for schools and families to think outside the box and discover what online learning can and could be.
- Schools and districts that ignore TikTok’s lessons are bound to fail - December 5, 2023
- Excite, expand, equitize: Using data to support reading - December 5, 2023
- 9 ways collaborative learning benefits teachers and students - December 4, 2023